NEWSLETTERS 101 #21: Share Your Customer Service!

Some roadblocks to my latest Shrine Series resolved, full steam ahead!
Some roadblocks to my latest Shrine Series resolved, full steam ahead!

NEWSLETTERS 101 #21: Share Your Customer Service

How a family-run business has made me a lifelong customer!

(4 minute read)

You get a pass today. I started today’s column on a different note, getting all the details just right. Which meant, of course, that it ran on and on. Then I accidentally deleted it. So…a shorter read today!

I wanted to share a new topic idea for your email newsletters that your readers will appreciate.

A project dear to my heart has been blocked for years. I ran into a few roadblocks on a new series of box shrine. I was using a silicon construction adhesive to join the boxes. It worked until it didn’t, and I was at a loss of where to go next.

I came up with two different solutions: Mechanical connections (which was a whole nother can of worms, until I worked my way through them, too) and epoxy.

I bought a tube from a local hardware store. But it went south the first time I tried to use it, and in frustration I reached out to the company. I described what happened, asked if it were shelf-life related (yup, some glues and epoxies have a shelf-life.) And waited for a reply.

My experience with customer service regarding defective products hasn’t been good.

I fill out all the forms online, then wait weeks for a response. IF I ever even get a response. (This is my usual experience, especially from companies too big to care  very much.)

So I nearly dropped my teeth when the company care rep for J-B Weld responded the next day. In less than 24 hours. (They’re in an earlier time zone, so it was impossible for them to respond any earlier.) The rep not only responded quickly, he sent me about a dozen tubes of epoxy, fresh from their factory line. Some were the same I’d purchased, but he added a variety of others for me to experiment with. For free.

He refused my offer to pay for them. And when I followed up a few weeks later, sharing my success with some the glues, but the same issue with others, he promised to send even more glue! Even after we realized part of the problem was the temperature in my studio (it’s usually 48 degrees in the winter until my space heater gets going), he still made it his personal mission to help me get my project moving forward.

As you can imagine, I am now a life-long customer!

Why am I sharing this today?

The first reason is obvious: Good customer service is vital for any business, and small businesses often do it better than mega-businesses. As artists, we need to understand this, too. I’m not suggesting you overwhelm your collectors with free epoxy. I mean, art. But when something goes wrong, I do my best to make their experience as positive as possible. Listening carefully, sorting out the options, and making things right.

The second is just what I’m doing here: Sharing my powerfully-positive experience with you. Letting you know that, whatever your need for epoxy, this is a company who stands behind their products. They want to know if you have a problem, and they want to help you fix it.

And your experience is something you can share in your email newsletters.

A lot of artists subscribe to my blog and newsletter, and of course, to Fine Art Views. Sharing what manufacturers you can trust is a gift to them. For my collectors, they may benefit, too. But it also shows them I really get what great customer service looks like.

Sure, there will always be that rare client who we can never make happy. And I sincerely hope you don’t buy some J-B Weld epoxy just so you can complain and ask for a box of more epoxy, free.

But they reached out to me, quickly, with full support. They believe in their products, and acted accordingly.

Just as we do the best work we can, and work to fix it if something goes wrong, with our own collectors.

And that’s the third reason to share: Do we want our customers to complain about how we handled an issue? Or do we want them to sing our praises?

We can share our own story/stories about how we created the perfect experience with a customer, or we can share our own personal experience, like the one I had with J-B Weld.

So today, I’m giving a shout-out to Chris Fox at J-B Weld (thank you, Chris!), who figured out what the problem actually was, so I can move forward.

And you get yet another idea of what to share in your next email newsletter!

Your shares and comments are always welcomed!

Share this Fine Art Views article, or view more like it my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101: #20 Share the BIGGEST Gift of All!

Otter's story is a good one for 2021!
Otter’s story is a good one for 2021!

NEWSLETTERS 101: #20 Share the BIGGEST Gift of All!

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

What a Disney movie did to lift my heart!

(8 minute read) (Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen Soul yet, wait to read this til after you do!)

 In last week’s column, I shared why sharing a family tradition (or one we’ve modified) can show our audience our human side.

For today’s column, I thought about discussing New Year’s Resolutions (which I rarely make, and keep even less.)

But instead, I’m sharing what I realize is the greatest gift of all:

We’re here, right now. Alive!

 Enjoy every moment, and look for the tiny little miracles that are EVERYWHERE!

Sorry/Not sorry for yelling. I’ll back up a bit. This came from a lot of ‘little thoughts’ that piled up into a massive mound this past week.

A few days ago, I was thinking about how desperate we all could be about sales.

Like it or not, “sales” is a powerful desire and goal for almost all creatives. I’ve always advised against pursuing sales as the only measure of our success. (I could create an entire series with the articles where I’ve mentioned Thomas Kinkade!) But we can’t help wishing and hoping to be successful with our creative work, and strong sales are hard evidence our work is popular.

Unfortunately, as you know from how many times I’ve mentioned Vincent Van Gogh’s work, we may never truly know how others will value our work. And being famous after we’re dead is…well, a nice thing to hope for, but we’ll never know.

Exactly how did “famous artists” in the past become famous? They had collectors with the money and the means (and the beautiful spaces) to purchase and display their art. And eventually, those works made it into museums around the world, “proof positive” that these were, indeed, great works of art.

But what about the artists who didn’t have that kind of audience? At first I thought of the work that wouldn’t even make it to any market: Artists of different cultures, different races, etc., especially those deemed “primitive” in nature. Then I thought of women artists, who were—and still are—under-represented in museums, art history, and even galleries today. Soon I was a little embarrassed for wanting fame and fortune, when so many people may have never had the chance to make their work, let alone show it, let alone sell it.

Even those artists who did make the cut, what about those works of art that never survived into our times? Entire cities, cultures, etc. were destroyed by fire, war, famine, pestilence, volcanoes. Cave art wasn’t a thing until Alta Mira, a prehistoric cave full of beautiful images of animals, was discovered in 1868. Even then, it aroused no curiosity for another decade, and it was actually Maria, the 8-year-old daughter of the caves owner, nobleman Marcelino Sanz de Sautola, who discovered the beautiful artwork within. (And even then, the work was often dismissed as modern forgeries by gypsies, until more caves were discovered in the early 20th century.)

Even then, such artwork was again dismissed as “hunting magic” by modern “experts”, whose unconscious bias limited their understanding of what was right in front of them. This bias continued. Mary Cassatt was a “real artist” whose work took a long time to be classified as such. In this article, the author says she had three strikes against her, “…her gender, her foreignness (she was an American living in France), and her reputation as a painter of motherhood.”

Even if we do achieve a decent reputation, a strong audience, some good sales, does that seal our fate? Nope. I can’t find this artist for the life of me, but one session in my art history classes in college focused on an extremely successful Victorian artist, the Thomas Kinkaid of his times, whose popularity tanked soon after he died. Too sentimental, too trite, did not stand up over time. (Could it be this guy?)

In our modern times, with a changing-for-the-better consciousness that all people matter, that all people have creative talents of some kind, that we all yearn to be “seen” in the world, and especially in this year of pandemic and unrest, how do we pursue our goal of being a successful artist?

I went to bed too tired, too sad, on a dark Christmas Eve, without an answer.

Until Disney+ tossed its newest Pixar animated movie, Soul, into our lap on Christmas Day.

I’d read a review that considered it “meh”, but for some reason, it still called to me. It’s about a musician, a music teacher, who’s always dreamed of making it to the big time, who finally gets his chance…

And falls down a manhole and dies. His soul is desperate to find a way to ‘go back’, to get the opportunity to realize his dream-of-a-lifetime.

In his efforts, he crosses the path of Soul 22, who has refused all efforts to get her to live a life on earth. Her cynicism is impressive! Even the souls of Mother Theresa, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and many others can’t encourage her to even try.

After many failed attempts to not only recapture his own life, but to encourage hers, a tiny miracle happens.

Let me repeat: A tiny miracle.

I found this beautiful quote in an article about Soul today:  “Instead, Soul was left to be about the little moments that make up our lives rather than where we end up, and that’s ultimately what makes the movie resonate so well.”

My own greatest joy comes in persevering until I find a solution to whatever is blocking my way. I keep track of my progress in my notebooks and journals, capturing the tiny moments of joy and wonder I encounter in my day.

When I write my way through episodes of despair, when I find myself at the mercy of destructive, negative people, when I begin to doubt my own worth in the world, my gratitude list lifts me up again.

Those tiny moments add up!

When I make my work, I feel my purpose. It’s to share what I find beautiful in the world. To share where I’ve found meaning, solace, peace in my heart, if only for a moment. And it’s so easy to do that today! A quick photo, a caption, a few tags on Instagram, and my insights go straight to my artist-and-writer page.

I find as many ways as I can (writing for Fine Art Viewsmy blogTwitterFacebookmy email newsletter, etc.) to share what I’ve learned, what has lifted me, with others, quickly and easily. (The gifts of social media, when used as a force for good in the world!)

And you can too! Include your audience in those moments of inspiration as part of your marketing process. Sharing those moments of light, beauty, awe or sorrow will also help to connect your art with others.

Including these shares in our newsletters — whether it’s posting an image of our latest work, or writing about a flock of snowy egrets catching a random ray of sunshine, silhouetted against dark and stormy clouds, or including these moments on social media –is not only a gift to others, but a great marketing tool too.

When we make the work of our heart, we are lifted, even if just for a little bit. When we share it with others, maybe their hearts will be lifted, too. Whether they buy it, or share it with others, the ripples in the pond of life continue.

More than this, we can’t expect, nor count on.

In closing, a dear friend and I talked together on Zoom recently, soon after watching SOUL. She was struggling with her own “next steps”, what would get her to her goals, and I felt so helpless regarding advice. Fortunately, it turns out she didn’t really need advice. And she is already so many steps ahead of me!

One little (hah!) story she shared with me: She has a school history and a longtime interest in ecology, and she loves going for long walks, being immersed in nature and all its wonders.

Over time, she realized that on every walk, at some point, a tree would “wave” at her.

It could be a branch, a twig, sometimes just a single leaf. But it was independent of any noticeable wind or animal action. And she began to wave back.

Just a tiny wave, so if she weren’t walking alone, her companion wouldn’t notice.

Because who waves back at trees, right?

It hit me. There’s a powerful moment in SOUL that involves a tree. An insignificant, perfectly ordinary moment, actually less than a minute, that changes everyone. And everything. Something I’m betting every single one of us has experienced at some time in our walks and travels.

I told my friend about this moment, without giving away what it was, and encouraged her to watch the movie. She did. She cried. And she was happy again.

This year, make your art, especially if it makes you happy.

This year, share your art, because it will make others happy.

This year, pursue your goals, but don’t let them define you, or limit you in any way. Don’t worry about being “good enough”.

We are enough.

This year, live your life. Live it fully. Live it deeply. As my little animal artifact Otter told me many years ago…

“Oh, be joyful! Play! Enjoy every moment of this amazing life.”

 Oh, and this morning, I looked to see if a tree were waving at me. One did, but it was because it was full of two different flocks of birds, finches and Brewers Blackbirds. So maybe it was waving, but maybe it wasn’t.

But I waved back anyway. And somehow, I felt a little happier.

Your shares and comments are always welcomed!

Share this link FineArtViews.com or view my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

WayBack Whenever: That Small Voice Inside

Oh, dear. My intentions to republish some of my old RadioUserland blog posts seem to have fallen by the wayside….

No matter. When I run across one that still speaks to/for me, I’ll reprint ’em here. (And most of them do!) (Also, thanks to Karyl Shields, who alerted me that the links don’t go to the right content any longer. Fixed! Darn you, Internet!)

Still following that “little idea” and I’m finally making some progress!
Monday, March 28, 2005

THAT SMALL VOICE INSIDE

Amy Peters, silver jeweler to the stars and Queen of self-promotion, posted a fascinating link on a forum today called “Marketing for Introverts.” I can’t find the article but her book can be found here: Self-Promotion for Introverts. Nancy Ancowitz’s insights provided very manageable steps we can take to promote ourselves and our work, and I highly recommend her article.

While poking around her site, I found an article she was interviewed for that also caught my attention. It’s called “To Find A Path, Just Follow That Little Hint” by Patricia Kitchen:

Why did this article appeal to me so much? Because a journey begins with having a place to go. And if you don’t know where to go, how do you take that first step?

Kitchen’s premise is, most people wait for a “bolt from the blue” to indicate where our true heart’s desire lies. But it usually doesn’t happen that way. Instead, she says, we have to pay attention to that tiny little hint of something that captures our interest. And follow it.

As adults, we often find we’ve lost or muffled the instinct to follow our hearts. We don’t have the time or energy to try new things, or pursue a glimmer of an interest. We lose faith in our abilities and strengths, we forget our gifts.

Last week I invited a friend to a free self-defense workshop at the martial arts studio where I study kick-boxing. I asked her on a whim, thinking it would be fun for both of us. “Oh no,” she said, “I wouldn’t be any good at that!”

I was baffled. Why would you have to be good at something to try it out? Heaven knows I have no “knack” for marial arts. And who would expect you to be good at self-defense without learning or practicing it??

But I understood the mindset. It’s that fear of NOT being good at something, the fear of embarrassing yourself in front of others, the fear of making a mistake. It’s the fear of being caught doing something foolish, or the fear looking stupid. It can be the fear of not getting your money’s worth or the fear of wasting time. It can be as awful as the fear of finding out you are NOT talented, or special, or capable of being better.

That’s why it’s so important to “follow that hint” of something interesting, new and fun. Why it’s so important to allow yourself the teensiest little opportunity to try something different. Why it’s so important to simply be open to something that piques your interest.

And why it’s so important to listen to that quiet voice within yourself that says “why not?”

Because who knows where that could lead you?

Kitchen ends by stressing that you must take active steps to pursue that hint. Otherwise, it stays a dream and never becomes your reality.

Tiny hints…small voice…and daily little steps. All adding up to a big dream come true.

NEWSLETTERS 101: #19 Share a Family Tradition!

I did get a LITTLE work done in my studio today. Found the perfect bear for my newest restored-box shrine!
I did get a LITTLE work done in my studio today. Found the perfect bear for my newest restored-box shrine!

It’s been a funky day-before-Christmas, to be sure.

My partner and I are in the middle of a huge spat. (No worries, we’ve been doing this for decades. Neighborhood friends nicknamed us “The Bickersons” almost 40 years ago!)

I finally pulled out and went to my studio, my always-happy place. Twenty minutes later, I got a call from Jon. He’d left his wallet at the supermarket, could I drive him there to get it? (No driver’s license.) No luck. But when we got home, ready to call and cancel all our credit cards, he found his wallet. On his dresser.

Grumbling, I drove back to my studio. But I could only get a little work done before the cold and the dark got to me, and so I headed home again.

I’m sitting here, trying to think about why this hardly even seems like Christmas. Aha! Covid-19! No parties. No Yankee Swap, our biggest, most memorable Christmas event. Our Christmas tree was so last-minute this year. I wasn’t even going to get one, but Jon wanted a tree, so I got a tiny one. Then I couldn’t find my ornaments. It’s decorated with some small thrift shop finds, cat toys, a box of Christmas cards I found at the thrift shop (puppies in Santa hats) and colorful fabric masks….

Okay, so this will be a Christmas-to-remember-for-all-the-wrong-reasons. On the other hand, it inspired this article, so here goes!

All through my childhood, I wanted to open a present on Christmas Eve. It was a hard NO growing up. So guess what Christmas tradition I started with OUR family?

Yup. We all got to pick one present to open on Christmas Eve! It was great!

My husband’s father was Jewish, his mother was Catholic. Actual religious practices were few and far between, but our daughter is none-the-less very proud of her Jewish heritage. So I bought her a dinosaur menorah I found on Etsy a few years go. She loves it!

No Yankee Swap. In past years, this was quite the occasion. Everyone brings an unwanted gift, a White Elephant, (undamaged, not used, etc.) wrapped and beribboned, and placed it under the tree. Then everyone picks a number from a hat/bowl/bag. #1 person picks a gift and unwraps it. #2 person picks a gift, then gets to choose whether to a) keep it, or b) swap with person #1. #3 person does the same, only they can swap with anyone who already has a present. Obviously, the best number to get is the last one! And it’s amazing how someone’s White Elephant is exactly what someone else will love.

It’s also good for everyone to have plenty of Gary Spykman’s handmade “spoonable eggnog” (recipe at the end) because sometimes fights break out. (Well, not FIGHTS, exactly, but just sayin’, don’t get too attached to your gift!

And of course, my Grandma Paxton’s yummy iced brown sugar Christmas cookies. They are the best!

In another family we’ve known for years, everyone gets new pajamas, and wears them on Christmas Day. (I can’t remember if they were matching pajamas??)

A friend told me how their family would go to movies on Christmas Day. (Movies! In a movie theater!)

Why would you share this in your newsletter?

Because regardless of religion, region, etc., holidays are a time for family-and-friend gatherings. In the best of circumstances, there are plenty of laughs and hugs, joy and eggnog (LOTS of eggnog, and don’t forget the brandy!) Being human, there might also be lots of spats and tantrums, sadness and envy, some disappointment (DO NOT GET YOUR PARTNER A VACUUM CLEANER FOR CHRISTMAS!).

There are loved ones who will be missed, for this year, or, sadly, forever.

Family traditions can be sweet. Simple. Complex and frustrating. Unusual. Fun. Embarrassing. (Mistletoe? No thank you!) Informal. Or scheduled down to the last minute.

Sharing a family tradition in our marketing newsletters allows our audience a little peek into our life, outside of the art we make. It reminds us that we are connected in all the subtleties of being human…and that we are not alone.

Of course, we can also share a funny pet story, or a beautiful sunset, or a moment of insight, as I’ve suggested in this series.

But if you get a kick out of our Yankee Swap party, or fall in love with Gary’s eggnog, or find a new passion with my Grandma’s cookie recipe (which I’ll post on my blog), imagine how YOUR audience will feel!

SPOONABLE EGGNOG BY GARY SPYKMAN (Note: If the name sounds familiar, Gary is the person who taught me how to clean, repair, and restore antique and vintage wood boxes for my Shrine Series, and offered me the use of his studio, his toolks, and his expertise to make them! You can see his work at his website:  Spykman Design

This will put a little (or a lot of) Christmas Spirit(s) in you! Thick, rich, potent… irresistible!


4 eggs, separated
2 cups heavy cream (whipping cream)
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup top-shelf rum or bourbon (really, the good stuff)
1/4 cup brandy
whole nutmeg

You’ll need three mixing bowls for this.
Bowl #1: Beat egg whites until stiff.
Bowl #2: Beat egg yolks, sugar, and salt until thick and lemon-colored, stir in the booze.
Bowl #3: Whip the cream.
Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the whipped cream, then fold in the egg whites.
Chill for an hour or two.
Scoop into individual cups, grate fresh nutmeg over the top, and serve with spoons.

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GRANDMA PAXTON’S CHRISTMAS COOKIES

1 1/2 c. brown sugar

1 c. butter

2 eggs

4 TBS. sour milk (you can add a teensy bit of vinegar to get it ‘sour’)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

4 c. flour

Preheat oven at 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugar.

Add eggs and vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients. Add alternately with milk.

Roll and cut cookies on a lightly-floured surface. (Keep your rolling pin lightly-floured, too!)

Bake about 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.

FROSTING

Beat 2 egg whites till fluffy. (My recipe says you may need to add cream of tartar, but I’m not sure why…?)

Add enough powdered sugar to make stiff frosting.

Spread on cookies and decorate!

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Your shares and comments are always welcomed!

Copy this link FineArtViews.com to share, or view my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #18: Love (and Art) in the Time of Covid-19

Bear tells me, "Be strong when things get hard. Listen more. Think slow. Love deep." Perfect advice for 2021!
Bear tells me, “Be strong when things get hard. Listen more. Think slow. Love deep.” Perfect advice for 2021!

There’s no perfect way to get through 2020 and beyond. So just do what works for YOU! 

(8 minute read)

I’ve never sought out positions on boards or steering committees, despite being involved with quite a few art organizations in my life.

I don’t have a “head” for leadership. I hate bossing people around. I mean, I love having my own way, but when I think I know what’s best for others, I fail miserably.

But over the years, I have volunteered for many these same orgs. Oh, I’ll complain along with everyone else about rules and regulations, how things are done, etc. But then I realize that the best way to find out the WHY is to join that committee, and learn.

I love peeking behind the curtain to see what’s going on!

It’s tempered my entire approach about shows, galleries, art groups, organizations, etc. And it also gives me a new perspective about the people who complain, but never take the time to find out WHY.

 My all-time favorite was sitting next to another fine craftsperson at a gathering during a major show, and listening to them complain non-stop about the committee I served on. After addressing almost all of their complaints, with the stories behind the decisions, I said, “Hey, you should join us, maybe you have some great suggestions for us!” (I said this with a straight face, too.)

They said, “How much do they pay you to serve?”

I nearly died laughing.

Apparently, it had never occurred to them that committees in art organizations are rarely, if ever, compensated for the dozens, or even hundreds of hours they put in, as a volunteer.

This year, despite my misgivings, I did join as a member of a steering committee. I’ve been given a relatively-easy committee to head, one that I actually might be okay with.

It was eye-opening on so many levels.

First, I was truly impressed by the quality of work this group does to pull off some pretty major events here in Northern California. I couldn’t believe all the details, permutations, roles these people played, how well they remembered every step of the process, and how quickly they reviewed and updated them.

Me? I forgot this article was due yesterday.

 I couldn’t help wondering what I brought to the table, if anything.

I soon found out. I had to take part in a phone tree to make sure artists had gotten the invitation to participate in our next event, an open studio tour mid-year, in 2021.

I hate making phone calls. I don’t even call friends or family members. (I just found out this year this is a major sign that I am an introvert at heart, though I can fake extrovert for short periods.)

I didn’t know what to expect, but I got the whole gamut of responses.

This year’s event had been cancelled shortly before it took place, due to (duh) Covid-19. Every effort was made to offer refunds for those who opted out, and a lot of planning and work went into making it a virtual event. An entirely new website was created, the event was pushed back and combined with a similar event. I was asked to volunteer with that, and put in easily 50 hours of work.

I made zero sales. I did two more virtual events that same month, and they all tanked for me.

Many of the artists I called had had the same experience (without the volunteer time.) Some accepted the new normal going forward. Some weren’t sure if they were willing to commit. And a few were quite angry over how this year’s event (that was cancelled) was handled.

I get it. I really do. And yet…

I chose to look at the gifts instead of the loss.

 Years ago, I did some major wholesale and retail high-end craft shows on the East Coast. I knew I had to put in a few years for each one before they would pay off.

But first came 9/11. Sales tanked for everyone. And every year after that, it seemed like a couple months before that show, we would invade some country in the Mid-East. I barely paid for my expenses. My last year, all three major wholesale shows tanked and I was in debt up to my eyeballs.

It was hard. But I learned so much.

I learned that there is no guaranteed success with any business venture we undertake. Even my writing, which used to bring in $300-$450/per article, tanked. I now make about 10% of that, and most of those opportunities have disappeared anyway.

I learned it takes time to build an audience, even in “normal” times. My very first open studio in New Hampshire, with a prestigious art group, I had zero visitors. The second year I had one, a nice young man who was very stoned. We had a very nice chat. I hope he remembers that! The third year, my studio was packed every day, and I made about a third of my income from one event.

I learned that an event with a catalog costs a lot of money. In those days, before the internet became a key component of my marketing, I would place ads in magazines associated with those events. It cost a minimum of $350 for one quarter-page ad, in a magazine that had a shelf life on 1-4 weeks.

So when I learned that a catalog accompanied my participation in this event, for the same money, a ‘magazine’ with a shelf life of a YEAR, I considered it a bargain.

 A great show/event catalog is worth its weight in gold.

 I’ve also learned that when we pay our fees, that money is used almost instantly to pay for all the resources: Design work for website modifications and ads and the catalogs, salaries (salaries for non-profits are usually at below-market rates compared to commercial businesses), etc. When an event is cancelled, the org does not get that money back. Design costs alone for this year’s catalog were almost $10,000, not including printing.

Our org has learned what works and what doesn’t with this process. Everyone involved has worked really, really hard to not only keep the organization going (which supports so many different kinds of creative work), but to improve the experience for its artist members.

And here we are today, at Fine Art Views, which dedicated all its efforts towards assisting us with the “new normal” and focusing on social media marketing.

It can work. For one thing, I had an uptick in sales in August, a very nice uptick. I couldn’t figure out where they came from, as none of them came through any of the online events. All of them came from my Etsy shop. Finally, I realized they were from my audience in NH! I haven’t been back in person to do the show. But since the entire show was virtual this year, I was at the same “level” as everyone else. I am so grateful to the League of NH Craftsmen!

In short (I know, it’s too late to make this short!) things are different. “Sure things” aren’t solid right now. Sales are off, it’s hard to connect with people/customers in person, and we all hate the loss of paying customers, and hate not knowing how, or when this will all get better.

But in a way, my life as a creative has ALWAYS been all over the map.

I’m grateful these art orgs are trying to stay in place, so they can be a support and outlet for us. I’m in awe at the people who work so hard to keep us moving forward, from a non-profit’s show committee, to the team at FASO.

I’m grateful I have an online shop, my own website, and system for marketing my art online.

I’m proud to be contributing to the safety of our country and part of a culture that values customer safety over profits.

I know if I can’t sell my work, 10,000 years from now, archeologists will have a blast when they unearth my studio.

I feel lucky that I still have a studio to go to, especially during these dark cold winter months.

And I am grateful that I can still make my work, because it brings me joy when I finish my latest projects.

As I shared some of these insights I’ve had over the years, many people softened re: their anger, their fear, their uncertainty. (That, or I bored them to tears and they said they’d consider joining just to get me off the phone!)

What are YOUR tiny blessings you’ve found in the moment? What have YOU learned in a lifetime of making your art? Doing shows? Sharing your art with the world?

What have YOU done to show your appreciation for what others have done for you, and for your passion for making art?

What are YOUR hopes and dreams for 2021?

If you enjoyed this article, if you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com. 

NEWSLETTERS 101 #17: Share an “Aha!” Moment

My biggest "aha" moment was what put me on the path to becoming a "real" artist. Still powerful. Still works.
My biggest “aha” moment was what put me on the path to becoming a “real” artist. Still powerful. Still works.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #17: Share an “Aha!” Moment

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

Was there a moment when everything changed for you? Share it!

(4 minute read)

One of the taglines in my Fine Art Views (and elsewhere) is this:

“I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”

Yep, I’m hoping it made you laugh a little. But I am also here to reassure you, that when we have our own “aha!” moment, aka “the Eureka effect”, that miraculous gift of insight where we see what’s really going on, what the solution is, how to move forward from a stuck place, it’s good to share it.

It may be just what someone else needs to get out of a hole today.

Here’s one of my favorites I love to share. It’s about fear. How fear can dominate our lives, inside and out. How it can paralyze us.

And ironically, how shallow it can really be. (Yes, pun intended!)

This story is over 15 years old, and the fear I described was already almost 15 years old. If my husband hadn’t cajoled me to take a dip in the lake on that hot summer day, I might still be holding that fear in my heart.

My intention in sharing this story was to encourage others who are in the same boat. Paralyzed with fear, palpable fear. Impossible to ignore. Only “diving in” (figuratively and literally!) helped me get to the bottom of that scary lake. (Again, pun intended.)

As I linked to the Dublin Lake story, I found another related story in the sidebar, entitled “Breakthrough”. Here is where a bunch of fears, and one random comment, came together into one beautiful solution.

Now my latest insight, that came from revisiting my old blog, today:

Radio Userland was an early blog hosting site (now-defunc) site. I wrote on it from 2002 to mid-2007. (I couldn’t even access it for ages after I left, until my techie husband recoded all the urls into something I could get to easily.) (Thank you, sweetie/love of my life!)

In five years, I got maybe three comments. THREE.

Was it because I was a terrible writer? Or an uninteresting writer? I’ll leave that for you to decide! But I do know the platform had its drawbacks, for me.

It was hard to comment. I don’t even know if I could have responded to those comments. I had no way of knowing how many people visited my blog. I never thought to ask the ones that did, to share it with others.

So: No comments. No likes. No way to measure “hits”. No way to know if anyone ever even read anything. No way to know if what I wrote, helped someone else.

And yet, I wrote. I process hard places in my life, through writing. So I wrote for myself, first. I love having had all those ‘lessons learned’, insights, and free advice.

I love it when I come across them again.

Because I still need them.

As a good friend said a few years ago, “I love all my life lessons! I love them so much, I learn them again, and again, and again.”

And when I share them with the world? Priceless. As in, “free” because you get to read them here at no cost to you.

And “priceless” as in “powerful”, as in “if it helped me, and when I shared it, it helped you, then that has incredible, endless value.”

Is it coincidence that I had this realization so soon after last week’s article, on how the numbers ultimately don’t matter?

I don’t think so.

So consider sharing an insight that helped you move forward in life. An insight that helped you find your way in the dark, towards the light, and a mug of hot milk.

If it helps even one of your subscribers do the same, well, that’s pretty cool.

One suggestion: Stick with the positive, or at least end on a positive note. Not all life experiences are good ones. But when we learn something fundamental, something beautiful because of them, that inspires hope.

Of course it okay to share something we’re struggling with right now, too: Health issues, difficult life events, etc. Believe me, if you’re going through something really hard, someone else out there is, too.

And it’s okay to just gritch now and then. (That’s a word from an old high school friend, a blend of “gripe” and “bitch”, and I love it almost as much as “blort”.) In fact, it might be an opportunity for readers to make suggestions or express sympathy, which may or may not help.

But just knowing they care can mean a lot to us, too.

But don’t be too much of a Debbie/Danny Downer, either. Yeah, we all have our moments, but we also all have enough on our plates.

What is one of YOUR favorite “aha!” moments? Try it out on us, in the comments!

If you enjoyed this article, if you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #16: The Numbers Don’t Matter!

If I measured my success by how fast my work sold, I would be at zero. One of my best pieces didn't sell until the month before we left for Cali.
If I measured my success by how fast my work sold, I would be at zero. One of my best pieces didn’t sell until the month before we left for Cali.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #16: The Numbers Don’t Matter!

Do what you love, share what you want, and put down the measuring stick.

(4 minute read)

 In last week’s Fine Art Views article about possible newsletter topics (sharing our resources), I mentioned Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD’s website, which is where that idea came from.

I ran the article by Thea first, to make sure I got it right. She mentioned she was inspired to create a resource page by another artist, Sara Paxton, whose most popular post was about how to speed up the drying time for oil paints. Which is logical and inspiring, right?

But my most popular post was about repairing a huge chip in my spongeware bowl with polymer clay.

And Quinn McDonald, a highly-respected artist/writer/life coach/corporate trainer? Her most popular post was about how to cook steel cut oats faster in the morning.

Irony: Last week’s post also had one comment. One. Comment.

But then I had more than half a dozen responses, from people who a) subscribe to my blog, where I republish my FAV articles; and b) got my newsletter referencing that article, with a link to my blog.

That number of responses is new for me, in a good way. My subscriber numbers are big-ish, but nowhere near “influencer” levels.

Until Thea told me THE NEXT DAY that her website visitors hit almost 1,000, resulting in a ton of new subscribers to her blog. She made a guestimate about the number of people who’d probably READ my article/blog/newsletter, but didn’t ‘respond’, and estimated I am truly at those ‘influencer’ levels. Which is….stunning.

The moral of this story is, numbers are everything. And…nothing.

 Sometimes our ‘most popular’ numbers can reflect our true audience.

Or they can have nothing to do with our true audience. (Trust me, Quinn has given the world huge gifts over the years, and cooking steel cut oats is not her greatest legacy. Not in my book!)

Sometimes our numbers can seem so abysmally low, we question our own worth.

And 24 hours later, we see the actual impact we have in the world.

Or not. As I’ve said so many times in my articles, we do the work of our heart because it matters to us.

Then we put it out into the world, whether by selling, teaching, or sharing on social media. This is the proverbial toss-a-pebble-into-the-pond, not knowing where, nor how far, the ripples will go.

Money is lovely (yum!) and numbers can be reassuring. But they are not the only measure of our success, with our art, with our influence, with our lives.

Case in point: There’s one reason I now love to attend memorial services for those who have passed on.

It’s the stories people share about that person.

 A funeral service draws people from every stage and arena of our life: Family, relatives, groups (neighbors, co-workers, customers, fellow church members, etc.) If they’re well-known, or even famous, even people who never knew them in person, may have a story.

And when they share their memories and stories, we have a peek into a life we never fully knew, or appreciated, or understood. We see moments of kindness, generosity, humor, and grace.

Even then, we still won’t know the whole story.

 Because…that’s life. Even we can’t see our whole story.

 When we rely on pure metrics, it can muddy the story.

 In fact, when I looked up metrics, I found this:

met·rics  /’metriks/

noun 

1.     the use or study of poetic meters; prosody

2.     a method of measuring something, or the results obtained from this.

Do you see it?

The first definition is a form of art.

How do we measure our art?

How do we measure our worth? Our life?

How do we measure the impact we’ve had on others? Whether the good we do outweighs the mistakes we’ve made, the hurt we’ve caused, the things we’ve left undone and the things we ought NOT to have done?

We can’t.

We can only do our best, with all our heart, and let the rest go. Make amends as we can. Try to better. Help others do better.

Social media and social media marketing has been a game-changer, especially during this pandemic. It allows us to stay connected, and create connection, despite everything.

But how we measure our ‘success’ with that, is another matter altogether.

If you enjoyed this article, if you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #15: Share Your Resources!

I'm sharing this for all my studio visitors over the years who ask me if I actually work in my studio space. Mmmmm, yup!
I’m sharing this for all my studio visitors over the years who ask me if I actually work in my studio space. Mmmmm, yup!

NEWSLETTERS 101 #15: Share Your Resources!

Help your readers take a step forward, just like someone did for YOU.

(4 minute read)

 In last week’s Fine Art Views article, I wrote how the gift of laughter is a precious commodity in our world right now, and how easy it is to share. This week, let’s talk about sharing what’s helped US move forward, in our art and in our lives.

Today, let me share another writer/artist from the FAV team, Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD, creator of The Charmed Studio blog. I first met Thea through her Fine Art Views columns. (Actually, Thea just reminded me that our paths crossed years ago, before either of us wrote for FAV! Thank you for the memory reboot, Thea!) I found articles both endearing and powerful. She gets right to the heart of what she writes about, and all of it is geared to helping artists and writers get better at writing/making.

But what really blew my mind was her website.

It’s not just filled with generous helpings of articles, offering insights for creatives.  She also shares links to websites and articles she’s found to be game-changers. She’s opened a window on how we can create more powerful and connect-able blog posts and newsletters. (Disclaimer: I just found out I’m on her resource page! Thank you, Thea!)

The generosity of this, Thea sharing what’s worked for her, is a game-changer in and of itself.

I’ve written blog posts of how-to’s in the past. Some of them I published, others languish in the sea of forgotten ideas. But after discovering who Thea is at heart—authentic and generous—I find I now want to follow her example.

I’ve given little ‘peeks’ into my process from time to time. Lately, I’ve gone a little deeper. On Instagram (which reposts to my Facebook biz page, Luann Udell, Artist and Writer, I’ve shared more of my process (restoring vintage and antique wood boxes for my shrine series). A reader messaged me, asking me for my sources for these boxes, and I wrote a reply that will probably become a future blog post.

Why have I hesitated to do this in the past? Perhaps it’s the fear we all have, that someone will snag our ideas and make them their own. That someone will take our process and do it even better. That someone will gain more fame and fortune than we do.

But isn’t that what I’ve done? (Albeit on a good level of integrity.)

I did not invent my faux ivory technique. Tory Hughes, who unfortunately died in 2018, was a pioneer in exploring and creating imitative techniques with polymer clay: Faux ivory, turquoise, amber, coral, etc. Yes, I’ve made my own adaptations and created some of my own as well. I’ve taken it new, very personal level, too.

But I have always acknowledged Tory as my first inspiration and as a great resource for information. Now I’m realizing it might be even more inspirational to create my own Resources Page, to honor her memory, and those of others who have helped me ‘up my game’ over the years.

Also, in my humble experience, it’s really hard to exactly copy another person’s techniques. And it’s almost impossible to copy another creative’s story. Our energy is better spent on our work, and the knowledge that a copycat can’t create new ideas like we can. They can only follow, and therefore, will always be a step behind.

To reiterate: This isn’t about ‘having to share’ our ‘how’.

It’s about sharing what helped us get to where we are, today, through inspiration, clarity, insights, and okay, a couple trade secrets here and there, and/or acknowledging where we got OUR trade secrets from, especially if they’re actually public knowledge. Share a teacher, a class, an art organization, where we grew our own skills. Share the writing that inspired us, and kept us moving forward until we got where we are today—or will be tomorrow.

Be a big-hearted person like Thea. Share what makes you, YOU.

 Your words may help another creative person move forward with THEIR work, and bring light, and good, and joy into the world. What a beautiful gift!

If you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

And if you decide I would be a good fit for YOUR resource page/next newsletter, go for it!

STORMY WEATHER (A Wayback Friday)

This is one of my all-time favorite blog posts, originally published on March 8, 2005. So many powerful memories! Bunster (who we found the perfect re-home for when we left New Hampshire, figuring a 12-year-old bunny would not travel well in a car with two dogs.) My daughter Robin, who wrote a poem for Lee.  Lee Filamonov, who died a few years later after I wrote this, a talented artist who lived with extreme mental health issues most of his life. Blizzards! And of course, the lessons learned along the way.

Enjoy!

My adorable Bunster, who was as feisty and bold as a cat!
STORMY WEATHER
I just found out another huge snowstorm is on its way. Tension is in the air. Snowstorms are “the New Hampshire way” here, more nuisance than anything. Schedules upended, plans unmade, no milk in the fridge. But secretly, I love it–the way you are forced to abandon the world’s demands, the way you have to hunker down with family and a good book and simply be at home.

Today my friend Lee visited me in my studio and we talked about art. I told him some of the fierce upheaval I’ve been feeling in my life lately. “I feel like I’m suddenly surrounded by people who want me to believe they are who they SAY they are. But I see what they DO, and I cannot believe them anymore.” I struggled on for a bit and finally, for lack of words, exclaimed, “I’m surrounded by liars!”

“Hell!” he said, “I have to LIVE with them!”

Point taken. At least I do not have to live with liars, and that’s a blessing.

I printed out a lovely poem my daughter has written about him, and gave it to him:

The Artist

I came to this country

in a year with no real numbers.

I wore my fur hat with pride.

I may have lost my teeth,

but never my dignity.

I have visitors here sometimes,

but they don’t come by

as often as they used to.

So I sit here, sketching

kaleidoscopic Russian princesses

with noble features and

holy backgrounds.

I paint red, for the Revolution.

And I use dead glass

to represent my own mind.

I walk in the cemetery,

feeding to squirrels the nuts

I can’t chew.

I write on the walls, and

they have threatened to paint over them,

but I know they won’t.

Everything I am, and ever have been

is on those walls.

Especially the shards of

glass.

By Robin Udell

Lee is so moved that he gives me a beautiful painting of his sister to give to Robin.

As we talk, I show him the book I’ve been rereading, “Art and Fear”. He grew impatient. “There are a million books written about art, and I’ve read them all. They will lose you in the woods. They are like a box of chocolates with one poisoned truffle. You eat them and eat them and they taste so good—but that poisoned one—watch out! It will get you! Quit reading them!”

But this one is different, I protest. It’s reassuring me about my fear.

“Quit reading about the fear!” he exclaimed. “Be ordinary! You are creative—make your art!” He bent over to stroke Bunster, and his voice became gentle again. “Be like your bunny. She’s fearful—but she has a place in this world…”

His words stunned me, weaving (as they always seem to) together a myriad loose strands in my life.

Months before in kickboxing, I was struggling with the moves. Too many injuries, too much weight. I’d jokingly suggested that my “animal hero” was the guinea pig—nervous and fearful, easily drop-kicked, chubby body with short legs and not able to jump very high—but I could NIBBLE my enemies to death. It got the laugh I was seeking and the tension relief I needed. My work-out partner and I have been mouthing “Be the guinea pig!” to each other when things get tough….

But I’ve been frustrated, too. I’ve now studied martial arts for over five years and constantly feel the limitations of my studies—both physical, and spiritual. I’m more afraid than ever in both arenas of my life. I’ve wondered if I’ve reached the limits of what this discipline can offer me.

Am I quitting if I give up? Will I find anything to replace it—the excitement, the challenge, the workout, the mental benefits?

And yet, in other ways, it’s not enough, and I’m through being patient, waiting for this ancient art to catch up to MY needs, as a woman and an artist in this dangerous world. I’m tired of learning how to square off for a fight in a bar. That’s not the scenerio where harm will come from.

So, if it’s too much and yet not nearly enough….What else could there be?

In the space of a few hours, I HAVE found other options. Suffice to say, small miracles have occurred. Other teachers, other opportunities have come forward. Permission. Acceptance. And perseverance.

Above all, indomitable spirit.

I am astonished at what has appeared in my life, so suddenly, so quietly, like the first few snowflakes of a winter storm.

APOLLO 13, FREE ADVICE, AND YOU: What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times

What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times.
What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times.

APOLLO 13, FREE ADVICE, AND YOU

Topics: art marketing | FineArtViews | Luann Udell

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times.

 (5 minute read)

 We interrupt this series Newsletters 101 for this public service announcement…

 All Fine Art Views writers have been encouraged to focus on online marketing/social media marketing during the pandemic. It gets harder to keep that up as time goes on. I’m weary of it, and I’m sure you are, too.

This week, I struggled to think of a fresh idea for a column.

So here we are in a situation that has not happened since the Spanish Flu, more than 100 years ago. It has changed everything, worldwide. Everyone on this planet has been affected, some more harshly than others, for many different reasons.

For artists, that means virtual events instead of gallery shows, open studios, or art fairs. For many of us, it means not even being able to go to the studio. Sales have fallen drastically. And there’s no end in sight, yet.

Yesterday, for some reason I can’t even remember, I paged through my daily schedule/to-do list notebook. On September 7, I’d written a few thoughts from one of my favorite advice columnists, Carolyn Hax in the Washington Post newspaper. (I think I must have gone on a Hax spree through the archives, because the mention of Apollo 13 was actually from her April 4, 2017 column.)

In discussing how good marriages aren’t about a perfect fit, but are about couples working with what they’ve got, Hax said this:

“In a memorable part of (the movie) “Apollo 13,” engineers have to build a carbon-dioxide filter with only material (the astronauts have) on hand. That applies to marriage, too: Understand what you need, see what you actually have, then try to build something that works.”

Let me repeat that:

Understand what you need. See what you actually have. Try to build something that works.

Bingo!

What do we need right now?

What we need is connection with our audience. Yes, we want sales, too. But that comes from the connection, right?

What do we actually have?

Let’s see…. Open studios? Nope. Gallery shows? Nope. Art fairs? Nope.

What’s left?

Social media.

 Facebook. Instagram. Email. Our websites. Virtual events.

This is why we’ve been asked to focus on social media insights for you. It’s all we got!

So what can we do with it? What can we build that will work?

 We can create a website.

We can create a website on a platform that is specially built for artists. (FASO!)

It will showcase our art, yes. But we can also tell our creation story, how we came to do what we do, why we do it, and how we do it.

We can create email newsletters that lets our audience stay up-to-date about what we’re up to.

We can show stages of where we are with our new works-in-progress. Instagram is PERFECT for this! This week, I had a breakthrough that’s held me back on several big projects for years. I’ve been posting updates on IG. (Okay, today I realized I haven’t actually solved the holding-me-back thing, but I’m excited by how close I am to fixing it!)

We can share on Facebook, especially our business page. We can share updates, thoughts, stories, images, etc. (And you can post on Instagram, and have it re-posted on Facebook.)

Virtual events are more common. Do they work? Yes and no. I participated in three virtual events in August and September. I didn’t think I’d made any significant sales, especially with the two that took place here in California. But afterwards, I realized this strong uptick in several larger-than-normal online sales during that period came from…a virtual event in New Hampshire!

The people that have followed me for years suddenly leaped at the chance to buy my work, and it was very satisfying. (The sales didn’t occur through the online channels of those events, which is what threw me. People found me there, then went to my online store and made their purchases directly from me.) These virtual events didn’t cost much, and I consider what fees I did pay, as my online marketing budget.

Social media marketing is what will get us through this ‘new normal’, until something like the ‘old normal’ returns.

And yet, from some of the comments made during this time, Fine Art Views readers often remind me how tired they are with all this focus on social media.

I try to remember to check back on where commenters are coming from, so I check their website and their work. Seems like the unhappiest folks didn’t have an online store/shop, or even prices on their work. Some don’t even have a website.

In my volunteer work for one major virtual event, I created captions/sentences for over 140 artists, describing their work, their inspiration, and what made their work unique.

I was shocked how many of them didn’t have a website. Or they didn’t have a correct link to their website. (I had to Google them.) Or they only had a bare-bones website, not even featuring more than one image of their work.

So many people had ‘resumes’ instead of actual artist statements. I had to dig deep to find anything of interest to say about their work, or simply go with what I thought of their work. (Don’t worry, I was kind to everyone.)

So many people didn’t have any social media accounts—no Facebook, no Instagram, even though Instagram, based on images, feels made for visual artists.

Even in

I know hundreds of artists and craftspeople. Yet in my own email feed, I get email newsletters from less than a handful of fellow artists. And some of those are not newsletters I signed up for.  They got my address from events I signed up for, or a group activity I was in. (DO NOT sign up people without their permission!)

And some artists didn’t even share their email address.

To continue the metaphor, if these folks were astronauts, they’d be dying for lack of oxygen.

Now, if your intention during this pandemic is to step back, focus on your work, and let go of sales and marketing until the ‘old normal’ is back, it’s okay, and I don’t blame you. It’s definitely a great time to dig in and make our art. Fewer distractions, fewer obligations, and I can’t go thrift shopping. (Did I say that out loud??)

But if you want to boldly go where you’ve never gone before, now is the time to bump up your social media marketing game.

Don’t complain, up your game!

If you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

Hearing the Call…

Homelessness is a problem not unique to California, but it can be more obvious because, obviously, the gentler weather works in their favor. There were plenty of homeless people in every placed we’ve lived over the past five decades.

My first art studio in Santa Rosa was near a park that had been a hot mess the years before I moved there. Rampant drug use and sales were an issue. But over time, this was mostly resolved, and now it’s a place where anyone can enjoy a little bit of nature.

I met quite a few homeless people, which was disquieting after the coffee shop next door closed for the day at 3 p.m., and again when it closed for good. Fortunately, I had a Dutch door, which allowed me to chat with them when they knocked on my door. I could assess them slightly, and simply close the top of the door when things got iffy. I had quite a few rich conversations with some.

My most frightening encounter was during an open studio event one evening late in the year, when night comes early. My tiny studio was filled with visitors, all happily exploring my space.

Until one older woman in a cheetah coat erupted.

She overheard me talking to someone about how I imagined myself an artist of the distant past with my artwork. It had been a long day, I was tired, and I said “pretended” instead of “imagined.”

She exploded. “Pretend” seemed like a fake façade to her, and she ranted on for several minutes about lack of integrity.

I was stunned, and tried to clarify my intentions. But she wasn’t having it. The push-back made her angrier. And everyone else fled my studio in a heartbeat.

Except for two women who stood silently by.

I am not good in these situations. When I’m scared, I run. I am not good in conflicts, and aggressive people scare the bejeezus out of me.

But something in me was paying attention. Something in me realized I was “doing it wrong”.

So instead of being defensive, I focused on connection.

I can’t remember what I said at the time. It was wasn’t about me, it was about the cave. How climate change caused those people to see their whole way of life disappearing in a handful of years. How those paintings were a prayer, calling the horses back. How the horses represent hope, and courage, for me as an artist, and for the world.

She calmed down, and listened.

And then I gave her a little horse. I put it in her hand, put mine around hers. I told her I wanted her to have it as a reminder of that. That we all matter.

Then I gently led her to the door and said goodbye.

Now, to be fair, in my mind, I figured giving her something was a good way to get her to leave. But that’s not how my two remaining visitors saw it.

Turns out both of them had experience with this. One was a psychiatric nurse, one had a similar background. Both of them said, “We knew she was going to be trouble. We knew it could go south in a heartbeat. And we weren’t going to leave until we knew you would be okay.”

Wow! Talk about angels in odd places….!!

They both said I had handled it beautifully. Met her where she was. Saw her as a fellow human. Being kind and patient.

I was flabberghasted. I felt I didn’t deserve the praise. I told them my own selfish intentions. They wouldn’t have it. (One of them still shows up to my events from time to time.)

Now, as an insight, that was pretty powerful. But it gets better.

A couple years later, I saw her picture in our local newspaper, The Press Democrat.

It was an article about people who lived on the streets who had finally been rehomed. She was on of them. An apartment had been found for her. In fact, she’d been in it for a couple months by the time she came to my studio.

What blew my mind?

She said that living on the streets was so traumatizing, it had taken her a looooong time to heal and recover. She said she was still ‘crazy’ for almost a year after, and she was just beginning to envision a normal life for herself.

It made me realize that even a home for a homeless person is not enough. They need support services, some for awhile, some for the long haul. They need to finally feel safe. And they need people who care.

That made me a teensy bit bolder in my interactions with this population. I remember a beautiful conversation I had with one person who was transitioning to female. At the end of our conversation, I asked her what she needed, expecting to hear “money”, and I would have given her some. But said, “I’m just so hungry right now.” Fortunately, I had a giant bag of granola I’d brought in for my snack stash. I asked if that would work, and she lit up with joy. I gave her the whole bag. (A year later, she appeared in a similar article. She now lives in a tiny house settlement outside Santa Rosa. Another artist in my community at the time had donated original hand-painted house signs for each unit.)

My assumptions about how to help others has gone through many transitions over the years. First it was, “Don’t give them money, they’ll just spend it on booze and cigarettes!” So I didn’t give out money. Until our same local newspaper shared that, if people on sleeping on a sidewalk, and cigarettes and booze help them cope, why should we judge that?

From then on, I would give pan-handlers $10 or even $20, after reading it could make a difference. One elderly gentleman danced for joy when I gave him a $20. “I’m gonna go over to that (fast food place) and buy breakfast!”

But later I learned that money is better spent supporting the non-profits that serve the homeless. Money gained through begging simply encourages them to “stay put”. In fact, my new studio is close to a residential facility that is the first step towards rehoming this population. It’s temporary shelter that works with people who have taken that first step.

I drive by there at least twice a day. It can be daunting at times. There’s often someone who will walk in front of my car as I drive by, on their way to the bus stop up the road, sometimes obviously intentional. During the hours they need to vacate the premises, they gather along the street. They leave trash behind. It can be annoying.

But then I think, if this is their only feeling of control in their lives right now, I can handle that.

And if you’d like to read a story about the best public art project I’ve ever witnessed personally, check out this excerpt in article about Bud Snow’s project in my Learning to See series:

Bud Snow was someone I met during my studio years at South A Street in Santa Rosa. They do large-scale public art, colorful, vibrant murals, usually up high. The featured work on that page I linked was a mandala painted on a cemented area on the ground, in a park near my studio. It took them much longer to paint than usual, because passers-by could stand and watch them as they worked, asking questions and in total awe of the work.

Soon Bud Snow offered every visitor a chance to help paint the mandala! I did, and over a period of four days, I saw them interact in a beautiful, powerful way with every single visitor: Parents picking up their kids from the elementary school across the street. Local workers and business owners. Homeless people. Every single one of them was thrilled to take part. It was one of the finest, truest examples of ‘public art’ I’ve ever seen, involving members of the very community the art was meant to serve.

Yes, Bud Snow was paid for the mural. (Though the extra time spent with the public tripled the time it took, so they took a hit.) Yes, Bud Snow’s work is now a sort of very-public advertisement for their work. Each one enhances their reputation and their asking price.

And yet cities pay for public art because it’s considered a powerful force for good for their citizens. The premise is, art really is a gift that everyone deserves, not just wealthy collectors who will pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a single painting (of a long-dead artist)….”

I still remember the homeless guy who showed up as night fell, on Julia’s last day of painting the mural. He had a flashlight and held it for us as we helped Julia pack up her stuff in the dark.

It was obvious that he was happy to be part of a group, happy to help her, happy to be ‘of use’. He smiled the entire time. I can still see his face, gently revealed by the light he held in his hand.

I’m still learning, of course. But maybe some of my experiences can be a source of hope for others.

NextDoor, an online resource for individual neighborhoods, is often a place where people can complain at length about this issue. And sometimes, the lack of compassion, anger, resentment, and general angst about this population can get out of hand.

The latest outrage about homeless people is directed at a woman who helps herself to flowers in a neighbor’s yard. When told not to pick them anymore, she got angry. She now picks them and throws them in the street.

The discussion is almost evenly divided between “please be kind” and “get rid of these creeps!” Some of the responses were downright scary, scarier than most homeless people I’ve dealt with.

Here’s what I wrote today:

“FWIW, my partner of over 42 years brought me flowers on our first meet-up. They looked freshly picked, and he told me he’d picked them from a tree lawn on the way over. (He didn’t have a car at the time.) I told him most people do not want their flowers picked, and he said, I thought that’s why they put them near the sidewalk, so people could pick them. So there are plenty of people who think “public” flowers are for the public to pick. 😀

I want to say thanks and love to all the folks here who show some compassion for the homeless population. They are not all one population, not all live with addictions, not all have mental health issues, a lot of them age out of foster care, or have young children, or injuries that affect them deeply, and MOST of them do not want to be homeless.

But all of them want the power of their choices, as do we all. Even when they step up and transition towards a home, it can take months, if not years, to heal from the trauma of living on the streets. They can be annoying, they can be problematic, they can be downright scary, and some we SHOULD be scared of.

But they are all also unique human beings who cannot afford services on their own. If we really want to consider ourselves true human beings, we have to start by seeing them as human, too, as humans who have not had our own advantages of support, income, homes, health care, good choices (that worked out for US), and people who care.”

We have to understand that part of why we see them as “other” is a way to distance ourselves from their situation. We want to believe that this could NEVER happen to us.

And yet we all know we may be one accident, one paycheck, one disaster away from being in that same situation. It could happen to a loved one. It could happen to us.

We can choose to look away.

Or we can choose to find even the tiniest way of helping. With our donations, with our taxes, with our volunteer time, with our work, with our compassion.

Part of me desperately wants to volunteer again with schools, with animals, with hospice.

But something is telling me my next service might be right in front of me. It’s scary. I’m still afraid.

But it won’t hurt to find out.

 

NEWSLETTERS 101: Share Your Events – the Right Way!

An event with multiple artists with a core topic may attract a different audience than our open studio event.
An event with multiple artists with a core topic may attract a different audience than our open studio event.

NEWSLETTERS 101: Share Your Events – the Right Way!

Do it how bands do it! 

(5 minute read)

Today’s suggestion for newsletter topics is short and sweet:

One event at a time.

I learned this one the hard way.

One year, I had three events in one month.

This was almost two decades ago, when postcard mailings were the way we stayed in touch with our audience. I had a huge mailing list, so even postcards could run into hundreds of dollars to promote events.

And if people couldn’t make it to one event, they would have the opportunity to catch the next one, or the next, right?

And so I combined all three events in one postcard.

I was very proud of myself for keeping my marketing costs down. But I paid for it dearly.

All three events were total duds. NO ONE showed up. I mean, crickets.

I was devastated. How had I lost such a huge audience in a handful of weeks?? What was going on???

At the time, I wrote a monthly column for a fine crafts magazine, The Crafts Report (now known as Handmade Business.) I became friends with my editor, Larry Hornung. (Not the hockey player!) We had wonderful phone chats from time to time. I loved his insights and his wacky sense of humor.

And fortunately for me, he also had a side-gig as a musician in a band.

I sadly shared how nobody liked my work anymore, and he set me straight in a jiffy. Starting with, “No, no, NO!…”

“Never, NEVER promote more than one event at a time!!!”

They said it’s common knowledge in the music industry (on the level where you’re not doing world tours!) to promote only one gig at a time. He reiterated this points many times in our conversation.

Our audience is comprised of human beings. Human beings, when told they have not one, but two, or even three opportunities to attend an event will do this:

They’ll say, “Ooh, the first one’s on a Friday night, but I’ve got another thing I might go do, so I’ll just go to the second one.”

The second date approaches, and they’ll say, “I could go tonight, but now I’m tired, so I’ll go to the third one.”

Then something comes up between now and the third event, and they can’t go at all.

This is sooooo normal. In fact, I scheduled a meet-up (socially-distanced, open windows, masks) recently with a potential customer. They suggested two possible days/times, and I said, “Let’s go with the first one so if something comes up, we have a back-up plan. Sure enough, something came up that was juuuuust important enough to push that back.

Unfortunately, something had come up for them, too, so they were not sure they could make it. Then fortunately, they found out they could, but unfortunately I’d already started an errand that was hard to bail on. Fortunately,  I did bail, and fortunately,  they hadn’t gotten my message that I couldn’t make it.

We arrived at my studio within minutes of each other.

We had a good laugh, they found their perfect piece and had to leave sooner than they’d planned, because guess what? They had to be somewhere else.

When you give people too many opportunities to opt out easily, they will.

And when you create a little urgency with your event, they are more likely NOT to opt out.

As I’ve said before, ‘urgency’ in sales tactics can be overdone. We’ve all seen the little timer counting down on a website, telling us we only have 20 minutes to take advantage of this amazing offer. I grit my teeth and move on, as most of us do. So don’t overuse this.

But do focus on one event. Especially now, when it’s hard to have in-person events at all. And especially when we get through these times, and we’ll again have infinite opportunities for so many social functions.

Note: I know that it’s common to post such a list of events on our websites, especially if we do a lot of fairs and shows. But in many cases, these are spread out over a state or region, or even across the country. So we are actually still focusing on one event in one area, as opposed to multiple events within 20 miles of each other.

Also, be sure to share what will be unique and special about each event. For an author’s audience, it could be an opportunity to meet the writer and have our book signed by them. If it’s in our studio, there’s not just the opportunity for visitors to experience our sacred creative place, it’s a chance to watch us demo our process. If it’s a gallery show, it’s an opportunity to see a full display of our best work (solo show) or a lot of other favorite artists (group show.) Let people know if the event will also support a cause you and your audience cares about. (See last week’s article in this series about that.)

All of these details may attract different people, which is fine.

And if you’ve already created different groups in your email newsletters, which is a FASO email newsletter feature, then you can send out different emails to each group, focusing on their stated interests. (For example, people who are only interested in workshop might be more inclined to attend a demo event.) (Me? I’m not that organized, so I send ‘em to everyone on my list.)

I’m so glad I shared my woes with my editor that day, with the exact person who had the perfect insight to my problem. One creative reaching out to another creative to share what we both had in common.

Promote one event at a time.

Three events? Three different notifications, spaced just enough in time so people can make good choices, for us, and them!

And speaking of sharing, if you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

TESTING OUR ASSUMPTIONS: Faux Facts of the Lascaux Cave

Is it coincidental that this article was annoying for me, right before I begin this new series? Maybe. Maybe not!

 

I was noodling on the internet this morning, stopped to look something up about the Lascaux Cave in France, the inspiration for the work of my heart.

I came across this article in the Winchester Sun newspaper in northern Kentucky.

It’s actually a good article, focusing on gratitude for the things we take for granted in our lives. And Smith’s assumption is not only one that was taken seriously for years–that cave art is about hunting magic–it’s funny, and a gentle reminder to find the gifts we already have in our lives.

But….

It felt awkard to say this, but why rely on a totally disproven man-the-killer-ape philosphy in life?

I tried to write to her, but oddly, I could not find a way to contact her nor the newspaper. I also wasn’t sure if I were being too picky. Except…so much of the “facts”, aren’t.  That bothered me more than I anticipated. She got her point across, so maybe I should just shut up…?

So I decided not to send it, but to post my thoughts here, in my own space.

Here’s what I wrote:

Erin Smith’s article on Nov. 5, 2020, “What Good Things Have Brought You Here Today?
​I came across your article while looking something up.  It’s good, and I enjoyed it And yet….
I know the theory behind your thoughts (granted, they’re funny!) about the folks at Lascaux being tired of reindeer meat.
And it’s true, for generations, we’ve assumed all cave art, dating back more than 35,000 years now, was about hunting and sympathetic magic around hunting food animals. (My art history studies revealed Lascaux is now considered the “high gothic” of cave art, for its unique use of color.) It was “obviously” about men and boys practicing their target shooting. (Spear marks were found in some of the images.)
The elders were also teaching the boys how to draw, which is why there are animals with eight legs, and multiple heads. This is what was taught to us art history students in the ’70’s and for decades after.
And heck, maybe they WERE tired of eating reindeer meat.
But this ‘hunting magic assumption’ is now considered out-of-date.
Research shows that NONE of the caves depict the actual animals each community hunted. Yet nothing stopped them from hunting other animals.  So what’s that about?
Evidence from the sites of their communities reveal they did NOT hunt nor eat the animals mainly depicted in each cave, relative to evidence found in their settlements.
And this was not a male-only activitiy.
Turns out the spear marks were made at a later time, probably by another community that found the images after the original painters had moved on, and before the entrance to the cave collapsed. So, NOT made by the original artists.
Many of the shamans that created the images are women, and some suspect MOST of them were women. ​And evidence shows that men, women, even children participated in the ceremonies.
The ‘garbled images’? Inexperienced artists? Nope.
First, there is evidence of “multi-media” elements in the ceremonies (created in areas of the most intense echoes, so sound was probably a feature during their creation, or in the ceremonies that followed.)
There’s now evidence that through primitive artifacts, with the flickering light of torches, these images can appear to move, as demonstrated by this video by Marc Azema. You can watch the longer, most recent version here. Or the explanation of how these images were viewed here. But the last bit, at the end of them all, the montage of the large, running cat critter, is still the most astonishing. I can only imagine the intense observation of running lions that resulted in this highly-realistic rendition.
And last, at the begining of the 21st century, archeologists associate the Lascaux Cave’s work with the timing of great climate change. These people saw what we’re seeing, intense change in climate that affected their entire way of living, not over centuries, but within a handful of years. Cooler weather gave way to hotter weather, the vast grasslands were disappearing, the vast herds of animals that fed on them disappeared. One theory believes they were calling the horses back. (Most of the horses in Lascaux are pregnant.)
Someone who thinks I’m “making up a sappy story” about hunting magic said, “You don’t get it. Cave art is all about survival!” To which I replied, “So is a cathedral.”
My own artwork began with the inspiration of the Lascaux Cave. I get the clever wit of assuming they were tired of eating reindeer. I get that there was a great inspiration for your great article in this, and I enjoyed reading it.
And as Patricia Lauber said in her amazing children’s book, PAINTERS OF THE CAVES, we may never know the exact story of these paintings. They are a message that was not addressed to us.
Just sayin’ that the messages we can CHOOSE to see can carry an even bigger message that’s better for us all. There are now wonderful insights that can inspire even more insightful articles.
And we can choose NOT to diminish the spiritual work of a people lost to us in time, who were US–just as intelligent, just as resourceful, in short, just like us–to make our point.
Respectfully,
Luann Udell

 

HOW TO FIGURE STUFF OUT And A Couple Little Miracles

Here’s an entwined set of stories that gave me a flash of insight today.

As anyone who’s visited my studios over the years knows, I have a lot of stuff. A LOT of stuff. I have supplies for every contingency, every project, every medium I work in: Fiber, jewelry, assemblages, print-making, etc.

I have hundreds of vintage and antique boxes I use for my shrine series, assemblages made with my own artifacts. An apprenticeship in a friend’s woodworking studio enabled me to clean, repair, restore them. Whenever I see good ones in the sizes I work with, I snag them. I have more than I’ll ever use in a lifetime.

So why do I still have so many?

Because I’m afraid to use up the ones I love the most.

I’m afraid I’ll use them up, and the work will be mediocre. (Yup, I have Imposter Syndrome!)

I’m afraid I’ll never find more.

And yet, I’m getting pickier about buying new….er…new OLD boxes. They’re a lot more expensive in California. An old cigar box can sell for $25-$50. (I thought $10 was too much in New Hampshire!)

So I found a stash of small wood boxes at a very reasonable price at one of my favorite antique stores this week. (It’s the ONLY non-grocery store I’ve shopped at since March.)

But I hesitated. They didn’t seem all that special, they were pretty small. So I passed. I was very proud of myself.

Then, two days later, I found the exact same box in my stash. It was nicer than I thought, and it really was a great deal. ($5!)

Turned out I’d pulled it out because it was the PERFECT size to pair up with another bunch of boxes, all the same size, I bought before we moved here, for a series I’ve been dreaming of for ages.

Finding another stash of the same boxes, in exactly the size I need…. Do you know how rare that is? I made a mad dash back to the antique store the next day.

And I couldn’t find them.

I searched the entire store. I carefully searched the two spots I was sure I’d seen them in. Nope.

I was so upset at myself! I started to stomp my way out of the store…. And then I thought, why not ask?

So I went up to the cashier’s desk, and asked if the dealer might have taken them home to switch up their display. It was a long shot, and I was embarrassed to even ask.

The cashier was new-ish, was trying to help. But another person who works there, who knows me said, “I know where they are!”

She led me back to a totally different booth, one I’d barely glanced in because it did not look at all like the one I was sure I’d seen them in.

And there they were!

I almost started crying, I was so happy. I snagged them all, and today I scrubbed them up in preparation for painting and waxing them.

As I worked, I looked at other boxes. I’ve been hoarding them for over six years now. Why was I stalling on that project??

Go back and read the part where I was talking about fear.

Every time I start to put together those shrines, I am flooded by self-doubt.

And it’s holding me back from making the work of my heart.

So I started writing in my blort book. These are the journals that should be burned when I die. They’re where I write when I’m angry, scared, frustrated, stumped. And they are also where I write my way back to my happier, kinder, more patient self, with others, and with myself.

The insight I got to today?

I am really good at remaking my work. In fact, it’s part of my process.

I realized I’ve already written about a few projects where I did just that: A little bear shrine that I reworked; the ‘perfect stick’ that wasn’t;

The blue horse necklace I made years ago.

a big shaman necklace I updated with a ‘better’ horse.

Updated shaman necklace with more balanced blue horse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People loved them when I made them. People say they still love them now.

I’ve only sold a few of my shrines and big necklaces, and fiber pieces. They cost more than my entry-level jewelry, of course. But that’s also normal for the work I do. It can take years, even decades, and suddenly, it sells. I’ve gotten used to it. I thought.

But sometimes, when I look at all the work in my studio, I get overwhelmed with how much work is there. Especially after a period where galleries close (the recession in 2008, the Covid-19 recession), and a lot of work is returned. And, of course, if the galleries carried the work for awhile, then it’s older work, too.

So reworking stuff is a habit. I like to take an older piece and remake it along the same lines, but updated: Longer necklaces, and more pearls and gemstones for a new line I’ve created. Horse artifacts with more detail, more 3-dimensional. (Older animals were flat-ish, which was fine until they weren’t.)

That was my “Aha!” moment.

I can make that new series.

I will do my best work.

And if I still have them years from now, and I see what could be better, well, I’ll remake them! Just like I always have.

I’m gonna make this happen!

So today I celebrate two little miracles. One, realizing that working in media that allows me to rework old designs. As I know better, I can do better. And two, acting on that weird impulse, to ask an odd question about little boxes, in front of the one person who knew exactly what I was talking about.

Okay, THREE miracles! Knowing that blorting will get me to a better place, even when I’m stuck in the same place for six years.

How do YOU work your way through roadblocks and self-doubt? I’d love to hear what works for YOU!

 

NEWSLETTERS 101: #5 What Is the Story Only YOU Can Tell?

Yep, I'm a little obsessed with my horses. Because they represent the start--and heart--of everything I am today.
Yep, I’m a little obsessed with my horses. Because they represent the start–and heart–of everything I am today.

NEWSLETTERS 101: #5 What Is the Story Only YOU Can Tell?

Apologies, I just realized I forgot to republish this article here on my blog! This is part of my series “NEWSLETTERS 101” and this one is a biggie!

We may not be ‘used to’ digging so deep. But the gold you find there is worth it!

(5 minute read)

Last week’s article about knowing our creation story sounded simple. But I’m guessing from some of the questions I received privately that most of us don’t find it that easy.

When I work in person with someone, it’s easier. There are questions I can ask, hints in people’s responses I can follow, and body language that tell me I’m getting close. And when people get to their truth, it’s powerful to hear, and see. Their stance gets ‘brave’: They stand/sit taller, their voice deepens, their words are simple, straightforward, and powerful. And often, there are tears. From both of us!

Unfortunately, before people get there, it can be very hard. For me, and for them.

Some people get annoyed. Or angry. Or they shut down, or push back: “I dunno. I dunno. I DON’T KNOW!!! Why do you keep asking me that??!!” (“That” is usually the word “why”, and I’ve written about it for years on my blog and on Fine Art Views (along with other authors.)

I’ve written about five drafts of this article in the last few weeks, and get overwhelmed with everything I want to say. So instead, for those of you who truly want to find your story, today I am assigning you homework. THREE homework assignments, actually:

Check out this article on what makes each one of us special: 10 Things That Make A Person Unique And Different

Read carefully, and think of how you would respond to each of the aspects given.

Next, invest $5 on a copy of Kaleel Jamison’s book, The Nibble Theory and The Kernel of Power. The link actually goes to the best bookfinding tool on the internet called (surprise!) Bookfinder.com.

This book will take you less than an hour to read, but it can be a life-changer. It was for me. The first section is understanding why some people always try to take us down by ‘nibbling’ away at us until we are not a threat to them anymore.

The second section, finding our Kernel of Power, can help you dig deeper into what makes you YOU. Take your time in reading this part, and think carefully about the questions. (Also note that Jamison says how our tears come with our truth.)

Third, this homework assignment is more creative. Remember that meme that went around on Facebook, 25 Random Things About Me, where we were asked to create a list of ‘things’ most people would not otherwise know about us? (Yes, I did it, and it led to another blog post. Of course!) (And also ‘of course’, I did an entire series of articles on how 25 Random Things can help us write a stronger artist statement.)

Last, there is an unspoken element in all these assignments:

The power of our choices.

Mine came when I realized I didn’t have to be “good enough”. I simply had to make the work of my heart. It was the beginning of everything with my art.

Many people say there was no ‘turning point’ or creation story with their art. They never ‘chose’ their art career. They always knew they were creative, and simply followed that path.

If that’s the case for you, then those three exercises may give you clarity. Because ‘just following a path’ still entails many, many tiny choices along the way.

I’ve written about this process—finding our central truth, our creation story–many times. I wish I could do it in person with each of you who are still searching. I also realize, I’m a writer. I constantly write my way to my truth. (To all of you who have signed up for my newsletter or subscribe to my blog, that’s why you get emails every week instead of once a month! Can’t apologize anymore, it’s part of who I am!)

I shut myself in my studio that day I wrote my artist statement. I was frustrated many times, but would not let myself leave until it was done. And I knew when it was done.

I know there’s still nuance in it. Most people call it a poem, and I agree. I elaborate on it once people, visitors, collectors, let me know they want to talk about it with me.

But it still resonates, and it still speaks my truth: I am here, now. I am only here for a short time on this planet. I want to have my voice in this world. Writing and making little plastic horses is part of that voice.

Yep, I’m a little obsessed with my horses. Because they represent the start–and heart–of everything I am today.

I found that looking for humanity’s roots in ancient times gave me hope that we can all do better at being a good, compassionate, generous, creative human being. Including me. Again: The power of our choices.

There are many other ways I am unique. Like loving melted ice cream. Like not liking watermelon. Like taking up martial arts and my art in my ‘40’s, dyeing my hair for the first time in my ‘50’s and sitting with the dying in my ‘60’s.

All of these are choices.

You’ve made choices all along the way, too.

Think about them. Do the homework. Let me know if you have questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.

On one hand, no, none of this will be on the test. (There is no test.)

On the other hand, you already have all the right answers. They’ve been there all along.

Let them out. Let them breathe. Let them shine. Just like YOU.

If you enjoyed this article and know someone who might enjoy it, please feel free to forward this to them.

If you received this from someone, and liked it, you can subscribe to more artists’ views at the Fine Art Views blog.

And if you’d like to read more of my stuff, you can subscribe to my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #7: Why Your ‘WHY’ Is So Important

Do we all have a deep mystery to discover?
Do we all have a deep mystery to discover?

NEWSLETTERS 101 #7: Why Your ‘WHY’ Is So Important

NEWSLETTERS 101 #7: Why Your ‘WHY’ Is So Important

(Hint: Because it is the heart of everything you do, every decision you make, and everything you make!)

(6 minute read)

Welp, somewhere along the line, this series shifted from “how to create an email newsletter” to “how to find your creation story”. I would apologize, BUT –

In my defense, knowing our creation story is the foundation of everything else we do.

Yes, we may end up making our creative work for years before we find it. Yes, it may not be a story you are comfortable sharing with just anyone.* Yes, it can changed or modified, to align with a new series of work, or for a special exhibit, etc.

But that story is in us, even if we can’t find it – yet. It is what drives us, guides us, in a thousand small ways, every day.

Knowing our creation story is a form of self-empowerment, a direct conduit to the inner passion that drives to make the work we make.

Someone reached out to me recently about this, with really good questions we may all have:

Do we all have a deep mystery to discover?

Yes, we all do. Everyone. Everyone has a story that gives some sense, some insight, into the choices we make.

Of course, many of our choices become such a habit, we forget the reason we made them in the first place. Hey, I’ll go first!

Why do you sleep on that side of the bed? (Me: I want to be closer to the bathroom in the middle of the night!) (Which is also why that changes every time we move.)

Why do I hate tuna fish casserole? (Me: I used to really hate ‘mixed’ food, I hated strong flavors like tuna fish, and my parents gave me grief every time I tried to bow out of eating it. Almost every dinner was a fight about food. Tuna fish casserole brings up bad memories, and mentioning it is a running joke between my hubby and me.)

Why do you make your artifacts out of polymer? (Me: Because I want them to look ancient, worn and damaged by time, over thousands of years. I can recreate that look with a faux ivory technique in polymer clay. Also, there’s no need to harm animals to make them, in this day and age, so polymer is more ‘life neutral’ for me. And how cool that this material began to soar in popularity as an art medium in the world at the same time I took up my true art?!)

Why the Cave of Lascaux? (Me: I have always yearned for a horse to love, I have always dreamed of riding a galloping horse, moving freely forward, flying in the wind, at one with these marvelous creatures. They were a metaphor for my longing to be an artist from my youth. The mysterious Lascaux paintings fed this longing. Now that we know more about the makers of those paintings, the synchronicity is even more astonishing!) (Recent findings on women as shamans in prehistory; that all members of this community participated in the ceremonies; that these paintings were created during the onset of swift, debilitating climate change.**)

I think I am waiting until I am an authority on (making my art) to try to look for the why.

This is not necessary to find our ‘why’. We are just postponing asking ourselves this difficult, but ultimately empowering work. Remember: We are already ‘good enough’, there is no diploma for ‘being human’, and we are all a work-in-progress.

Where does passion for working come from?

From our heart. The desire to be seen, heard, loved in the world. To be seen as an individual, and to be part of a community. To be remembered, long after we are gone. We want to make our mark in the world. Many factors guide/hinder us along the way, from how we were raised to what we perceive is valued in our culture. That’s why finding our way to this work can take time and effort for many of us.

Although I do like the idea of being a powerful force for good in the world. Who, me?!

Yes, YOU! And me! And about 98% of the rest of the world. (I’m leaving out the sociopaths and narcissists of the world, although sometimes even they often create good work in the world in their pursuit of their passions.) (Just don’t date or marry them!)

Here’s my favorite metaphor for “do I matter?”:

When we put the work of our heart out into the world, it’s like tossing a pebble into a large lake. We may not see where all the ripples go, but they are there and they go SOMEWHERE. (Look up The Butterfly Effect.)

Our art is like that.

It may take time for it to be seen. Maybe not even in our lifetime. Van Gogh died in despair, craving to be seen in the world. If only he could see his own validation now! Or it could disappear eventually. But what is left is how it affected US, and others in their own good time.

(Again, the power of the internet, and the legacy of the art we leave behind.)

The cave paintings of Lascaux were a powerful message that was not addressed to us. But that cave deeply, deeply impacted all the people who were able to see it before it was closed, and even long after. And it changed my life.

For millennia, we have had some very strict rules about who can be an artist, and who can’t. Rules about what ‘real art’ is, and what isn’t.

Rules and laws have kept women, people of some religions, people of color (outside of their own origins and present communities), people of ‘other-than’ gender, in a box, and usually not a very pretty nor kind box.

But things change. We are not in a perfect, accepting, loving world yet. But it is even more possible to have our voice in the world. The current shelter-in-place orders may force us to stay home. We may feel paralyzed, overwhelmed, anxious about the state of the world right now. But the internet, and social media marketing***, allows us, and our art, to roam the world. Access to a smart phone, a computer, a library (eventually!) give us this perfect freedom.

We do the work we feel compelled to make, and hope someday, somewhere, somehow, someone else will feel its message.

And when WE know our message, we are empowered now, no matter what happens later.

I told this person they’d inspired this article! One person’s words, even shared with self-doubt, shared with courage, and with the hope that I might answer, lit up my heart.

I hope my words today light YOUR heart, and theirs.

*You can share the gist of your creation story, if the details are too personal or uncomfortable to share. Just knowing it is huge!

**And as a side note, everyone who says, “My art speaks for itself”, the story of the Lascaux Cave paintings for years was, men-and-boys-practicing-target-shooting. New evidence now shows that “story” is completely wrong, on so many levels. We were seeing these images through the lens of our own time, with all the cultural prejudices that can block our “view”….) (To which some will counter, “Cave art is about survival!” and I reply, “So is a cathedral.”) (The power of our choices.)

**”Social media marketing” of course, is simply using the internet to get our work in front of other people, who may love it, be inspired and uplifted by it, and hopefully, even love it enough to buy it!